AWR Insights

Sherry Hess
Sherry Hess
Sherry is vice president of marketing at AWR, bringing with her more than 15 years of EDA experience in domestic and international sales, marketing, support, and managerial expertise.

AWR: Redefining Design

 
June 17th, 2013 by Sherry Hess

When I first learned of NI’s Redefining campaign, I thought… yes, makes perfect sense and fits AWR extremely well. Our company was founded almost 20 years ago on the very idea of redefining design for microwave/RF engineers. We began this mission with the release of our flagship product, Microwave Office®, and have continued our tradition of innovation as the first with a Microsoft Office look and feel, the first to fully embrace the PC as the preferred platform, the first to open our environment to third-party vendor tools through our EM Socket™ interface, the first to offer the eye-catching real-time tuning feature…yup… AWR has been constantly evolving and redefining design with every new technology, product, and partner announcement.

If you look at our innovation timeline (snapshot below), you can see for yourself how we continually work to redefine the tools and technologies our customers require, request, and enjoy and that enable them to achieve design success by first virtually prototyping their MMICs, RF PCBs, RFICs, microwave modules, communication systems, radar systems, antennas, and more.

 

So this year as we embrace our parent company’s redefining campaign, we want to clearly say, “Hear, hear, we agree and support redefining design in all that we do—past, present and future.” Take a look at Analyst™, which has already begun to redefine the design flow for 3D FEM EM analysis by enabling users to move away from disparate point tools to analysis so seamlessly integrated within Microwave Office circuit design that it effectively makes EM a one-click option. Take a look at our forthcoming Visual System Simulator™ (VSS) software release with 802.11ac IP that’s been modularized so it lends itself not only to use within VSS but also within NI’s PXI hardware and LabVIEW software. Take a look at our many AWR Connected™ partners to see how our openness philosophy continues on today, providing our customers with a design flow and eco-system that is flexible and open to better satisfy their ever changing and challenging design needs.

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Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics Selects AWR Software

 
May 1st, 2013 by Yongjiu Zhao

UNIVERSITY BACKGROUND

Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA) is one of China’s premier learning and research institutions and has developed into a comprehensive university especially focused on aerospace engineering. Established in 1952, NUAA strives to provide a world-level research and education system for its 24,600 students, 600 of who are international students from over 30 countries.

THE DESIGN CHALLENGE

NUAA was searching for a more user-friendly, integrated alternative to the current set of high-frequency design tools used in the classroom. To objectively evaluate AWR’s Microwave Office® RF and microwave design software, the university chose to redesign an existing compact and high selectivity dual-band, dual-mode bandpass filter for GPS and WLAN applications. The filter was designed using a short, stub-loaded folded resonator with source load coupling. The 3dB fractional bandwidths of the two passbands were about 3.4 percent at 1.57GHz and 9.9 percent at 5.2GHz. Because there was interference between the main signal path and the folded arms of the resonator, it was necessary to generate five transmission zeros near the passband edges and in the upper stopband in order to improve the frequency selectivity and stopband performance.

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Microwave & RF Engineers…Communication is Key!

 
May 1st, 2013 by Sherry Hess

I recently agreed to co-chair the IEEE MTT-S Women in Engineering (WIE) / Women in Microwaves (WIM) organization. I have long been an advocate for advancing the cause of women in the world of RF and microwave engineering, actually back to my college days at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) when I was one of only eight women in my EE graduating class of 110. Things have not improved much since then with women representing only 10 percent of IEEE WIE membership in the U.S. today.    Asia and Europe fare far better with approximately 40 percent and 20 percent respectively.

Why do we care about this? Women are a key demographic in any market and a valuable resource to our “dwindling pool of resources” within our chosen profession. We need more engineers of either gender and diversity in terms of more women in our field will certainly add a different perspective to ideas and insights, as it’s true that not all minds think alike.

One of the first things any of us can do to contribute to this is to promote awareness.  We need to find new and novels ways to encourage women to elect engineering as their career choice.  I spoke recently with former WIE Chair Karen Panetta, who helped me clarify that we need to tap into the “wonderment” of our career choice and make it desirable to the younger generations.   One way to do that is to highlight not only the successful women in our high-tech field like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer or Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, but also to talk about how our profession is what empowers the wireless revolution to take hold and thrive.  Watching my kids text, chat and clamor for free WiFi access brings home to me how all of this technology—from products to infrastructure—is largely thanks to microwave theory and techniques.

My co-chair and esteemed colleague Dr. Rashuanda Henderson and I are already formulating plans for improving awareness, communications, and a sense of camaraderie.   To that end, please make a point to support WIM by stopping by the reception at IMS 2013, Tuesday night from 6-9 p.m. at the Seattle Space Needle, Level 100!

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Bye Bye Wallets….

 
March 6th, 2013 by Sherry Hess

Given the recent fiscal cliff and the spending cut countdown, I’m wondering how many of you think this blog will be about our dwindling wallets and discretionary dollars?  But alas, not so.  This is about the emergence of the electronic wallet or rather the underlying technology that’s making it a reality…

Back in August, Time Magazine ran an article titled, “Bye Bye Wallet” written by Harry McCracken, who bravely spent (or rather attempted to spend) a weekend using nothing more than his Google Wallet.  What I liked about this piece (in addition to the humor) was that within the first two paragraphs, he was talking about NFC – near field communication – technology that is enabling this trend.

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End-to-end Design and Realization of an X-band Transmission Analyzer

 
February 23rd, 2013 by Aileen Romero

INTRODUCTION

The X-band frequency range has been designated for critical military and public safety applications such as satellite communications, radar, terrestrial communications and networking, and space communications. It is important to ensure that these signals deliver quality, reliable, and secure communications. This application note describes the design and realization of a complex X-band transmission analyzer for use in real-time material testing.

The purpose of this analyzer is to gather complex-valued X-band transmission coefficients at high update rates of greater than 100,000 measurements per second. This note describes how manufacturing costs were minimized by integrating the many RF components in the device onto a single printed circuit board (PCB), how coupling issues between the RX and TX paths caused by the requirement for high dynamic range were addressed, and how EM simulator based tuning was used for the numerous distributed elements on the board to ensure optimal performance.

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Design and Optimization of a Board-to-Chip Transition

 
February 20th, 2013 by Sherry Hess

INTRODUCTION

Dr. John Dunn
AWR EM Technologist

3D electromagnetic (EM) simulators are commonly used to help design board-to-chip transitions. AWR now makes life easier for circuit designers with the introduction of Analyst, a full featured, 3D EM finite element method (FEM) simulator. The key advantage of Analyst™ over other available 3D simulators is its tight integration within the Microwave Office® design environment, AWR’s circuit design and simulation platform. This application note highlights the unique features of Analyst by demonstrating the optimization of the transition from a board-to- -chip signal path. The example shows how the ability to access Analyst from within in the Microwave Office environment saves designers time and provides ready access to powerful layout and simulation tools that are not available in typical circuit design tools.

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Understanding and Correctly Predicting Critical Metrics for Wireless RF Links

 
February 14th, 2013 by Joel Kirshman

Understanding and correctly predicting cellular, radar, or satellite RF link performance early in the design cycle has become a key element in product success. The requirements of today’s complex, high performance wireless devices are driving designers to assess critical measurements—noise figure (NF), 1dB gain compression (P1dB), third order intermodulation distortion versus output power (IM3dBc), and signal-to-noise ratio (SNR)—long before manufacturing begins. Traditional modeling methods such as rules of thumb and spreadsheet calculations (Friis equations) give limited insight on the full performance of an RF link in next-generation wireless products. This white paper highlights the advantages of using specialized RF system simulation software to accurately predict critical metrics for wireless RF links.

Figure 1: Traditional use of the spreadsheet as a system tool.

Simulation Software—A Novel Approach
Traditionally designers have used spreadsheets (Figure 1) to do calculations such as cascaded noise figure, P1db, compression point, and/or third order intercept point of an RF link. The advantages of using a spreadsheet are two-fold: data entry is simple and spreadsheet software is readily available. As wireless devices become more and more pervasive and complex, the limitations of spreadsheets become more apparent. In other words, spreadsheet responses are based on standard equations and therefore do not typically account for mismatch between components or noise at image frequency. In addition, spreadsheets do not normally support data files such as S2p, spur tables, etc., nor do they support yield analysis or optimization—techniques that are becoming increasingly important in order to produce high performance devices at a competitive price.

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Shock and Ah!

 
January 31st, 2013 by Sherry Hess

January started with a bang.  Three weeks of travel, which meant a lot of time sitting on planes and waiting for them.  The nice thing about this is that it gives me time to let my brain wander a bit and often times come upon new and interesting ideas that I can apply at AWR.  This blog isn’t about that per se, but rather the Shock and Ah! I experienced as I was catching up on my reading with a couple of interesting articles during my travel time. On my iPad Flipboard app, I stumbled across an article in IEEE Spectrum about the next generation of Lego MindStorms, MindStorm EV3, which was unveiled at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Lego Mindstorms is a collection combining Lego’s classic building blocks with programmable microcomputers that bring Lego creations to life. It talks about how this new toy, which has an EV3 intelligent brick, lets the builder program the robots without using a computer and that it is making robotics fun and fascinating for all ages.  What attracted me to it outside of my own love for Legos is that National Instruments, AWR’s parent company, is a key technology provider of this product—the intuitive software platform for EV3 is based on NI’s LabVIEW graphical programming software. LabVIEW is the same software that powers some of the greatest innovations in the world and is already plug-n-play within the AWR Design Environment™ to provide a seamless RF/microwave design and test flow. How’s that for a bit ofShock and Ah!…that’s cool.

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Khan Academy- I’m a Fan!

 
November 29th, 2012 by Sherry Hess

A few months ago, I heard a news program on NPR about the Khan Academy and how it was started accidentally by Mr. Khan to help his niece with her math homework. Since he lived far away from her, he captured his helpful hints via YouTube and shared via the Internet. One thing led to another and now Khan has found himself the creator of something big.

Since that NPR special, I’ve had a few chances to visit the website. There are over 3,200 videos on a wealth of subjects. I found myself touring around and clicking on things like art history, science, economics, history and even SAT prep, and getting progressively more excited by the proposition that this is a tipping point to excite kids to continue to be curious about math and science as they get older.

The Khan Academy concept reminded me of Professor Fornetti’s ExploreRF YouTube Channel, which offers training courses and webinars in RF and microwave related subjects, and of course AWR’s own AWR.TV portal. Our numerous video tutorials and vignettes are meant to accomplish the same for RF/Microwave education as Khan is for mathematics.  Both aim to excite current and future users to learn more about the wealth of capabilities in AWR’s software as well as the fundamental mathematic theories it solves.

AWR continues to be committed to helping university students learn more about RF/microwave design. To that end, we recently ran a contest to see if our strategies of supporting university engineering courses, awarding free software to engineering graduates, and sponsoring the IMS and EuMW Student Design Contests were having a positive impact. We were excited to find many success stories, two of which we have recently published. One design student at Istanbul University of Technology (read the story here>>) actually taught himself how to use Microwave Office through our documentation, extensive library of examples, and, most importantly, our AWR.TV videos. His journey resulted in a low noise amplifier design that won the Turkey Graduation Design Competition and was a finalist at the IMS Student Design Competition. Another student from Vienna University of Technology (read the story here>>) was able to design an X-band transmission analyzer from end to end thanks to several master’s degree courses that offered the use of Microwave Office, as well as attentive technical support. His design won the IMS Student Design Competition. Details on both of these stories can be found in the success stories included in this newsletter.

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The Mechanics of Creativity

 
September 17th, 2012 by Sherry Hess

I was pleased to be invited to participate on the Women in Electronic Design panel at DAC 2012 this past June. The theme: “The Mechanics of Creativity—What does it take to be an idea machine?” Design is an inherently creative process, but how can we be creative on demand? How can we rise above mundane tasks with flashes of brilliance, discover secrets of technical and business creativity and calculated risk taking, and share stories of innovation?

The organizers, moderators and panelists included Karen Bartleson, Director of Community Marketing at Synopsys, Holly Stump, High Tech Marketing, Lillian Kvitko, Director of Data and Resource Management, Microelectronics Group at Oracle, Dee McCrorey, Chief Risk Guru and Innovation Catalyst at Risktaking for Success LLC, and myself.

Creativity is not a topic electronic engineers talk about very often, so I worked through a number of questions beforehand to prepare…

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Technical Writer (synthesis, place and route)
Senior Software Engineer



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